Wednesday 29 November 2006

Transport 21 Integration and Transformation of the Transport Network

Will Transport 21 make things any better? Here's the Minister's speech from earlier this year, make up your own minds!

I am delighted to be invited here today to speak to you about Transport 21 and what it will mean for our transport infrastructure, our transport services, our economy and most of all, our people.
Transport 21, which is seeing us invest €9.4million a day for the next 10-years in Irish transport, highlights the central importance that the Government has given to overhauling our Transport system. It provides us with unprecedented resources to do the job right. It recognises that this country needs a 21st Century Infrastructure for a 21st Century Economy and details the project delivery path.

However, a plan of this magnitude must be about more than construction projects. It must have a massively positive impact on commuting times, on the success and sustainability of our economic progress, on our international competitiveness. In essence, if we are to spend €34 billion, we expect to see a transforming impact on the quality of our lives as citizens.

Ireland has been changing rapidly in recent years, particularly since our present cycle of rapid economic growth. The backdrop to Transport 21, indeed the basis for the very need for a programme of such a scale is clear.

- Our population has increased by 11% since 1996 to just over 4 million and is predicted to reach 4.7 million by 2016,

- Employment grew from 1.2 million in 1991 to 1.9 million in 2004 and our current 4.3% unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the EU. Total employment is forecast to grow to 2.4 million in 2016, an increase of 23%

- Private car ownership has increased by around 50% between 1991 and 2003. Despite this, our car ownership rates are still low for a developed economy, which points to further future growth.

- Distances travelled to work are increasing, with some 18% of the workforce now travelling over 15 miles to work compared with 11% in 1996. The car remains the main mode for travel to work and accounts for around 62% of all trips.

- The number of new houses being built each year has increased from around 30,000 in 1995 to around 77,000 currently, with a significant proportion in the hinterland areas around our cities.

- The tonnage of goods transported nationally by road has increased from 85 million tonnes to 283 million tonnes.

All of these trends have had and will continue to have a significant impact on the ability of our transport infrastructure and services to cope. Against this challenging backdrop, we have been playing a fast and furious game of catch-up. Since 1997 we have invested some €7.8 billion in transport infrastructure. This level of investment has funded the completion of the M50 Dublin C-ring motorway and the M1 motorway from Dublin to Dundalk. The Dublin Port Access Tunnel is almost complete. The railway infrastructure on the entire inter-city national rail network has been modernised. The capacity of the commuter rail network in the Greater Dublin Area has been greatly increased with infrastructural improvements and a massive rolling stock acquisition programme. Two high capacity Luas light rail lines have been constructed. These are just some of the many transport projects advanced in recent years. Yes, a lot has been done.

However, despite that level of investment, more needs to be done. It is widely recognised that our transport infrastructure suffered from chronic under-investment for a number of years. Prior to the mid-90s, as a nation we simply did not have the financial resources to invest in major transport infrastructure projects. Since then, we have been and, indeed at this point in time, continue to be engaged in investment catch-up. We have been putting in place the level of transport infrastructure that is needed.

Transport 21recognises the different characteristics of investment in transport. Transport investment typically involves long construction phases and massive financial outlays. This has enabled Government to commit to the key projects that are central to addressing in a meaningful way the capacity problems faced by our present transport infrastructure.

A fundamental aspect of Transport 21 is the fact that it provides the basis for an integrated transport network. This is a key and overdue development. It is widely accepted that transport must be considered in a holistic way and not as an end in itself.

So what does Transport 21 entail?

An integrated transport system for Dublin, to include seven new Luas projects, two Metro lines, an underground station at St. Stephen's Green integrating all services and the Western Rail Corridor. In addition, a new commuter rail services for Cork City and Galway City, DART extensions in Dublin, and a new road route connecting Donegal, to Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford, known as the Atlantic Corridor are among a snapshot of the projects to be delivered under the plan.

What will it deliver?

175 million extra public transport users. 75 million extra suburban rail passengers. City Centre to Dublin Airport in 17 minutes by Metro. 80,000 more bus passengers per day. 80 million Luas and Metro passengers per annum. A doubling of Park & ride sites in Dublin to 74.

70kms of QBC in Cork. 187 new rail carriages. 850kms of dual carriageway, 2+1 and single carriageway roads.

We already have commenced the planning phases on new Luas projects. Tomorrow, I will announce the public consultation phase for Metro North, a service that will make it possible to travel from Dublin Airport to the City Centre in 17 minutes. Road projects have commenced, with the focus to continuing to be "on time, on budget" delivery.

A key element of Transport 21 is the continuation and expansion of the Public Private Partnership model, under which a number of our new national roads have been delivered effectively and within budget in recent years. We would welcome German participation in these partnerships.

Full details of Transport 21, including detailed maps is available on my Department's website which I think shows very clearly the extent of the rail network planned for Dublin under Transport 21.

Our success in the coming years will be fundamentally dependent on our ability to deliver a 21st century infrastructure for a 21st century Ireland. Connecting communities and promoting prosperity is at the core of Transport 21.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I do not wish to delay you any longer from your lunch. Thank you again for inviting me here today and for taking the time to listen.

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